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Denmark

Secondary Education


Efterskoler & Ungdomsskoler: Efterskoler (continuation schools) are boarding schools for the eighth to the tenth forms, and are completed with either the Leaving Examination or the Advanced Leaving Examination. Previously, these schools catered to pupils who had encountered academic, social, or personal problems in the formal school system; however, this image has changed dramatically, and the continuation schools are now attended by an increasing number of young people who desire a year or more away from home.

Ungdomsskoler (youth schools) are designed for school-leavers who lack particular skills; they may be residential as well as non-residential.

Nearly all school-leavers continue in some type of secondary education; 53 percent continue in upper secondary schools, which are academically oriented, whereas 41 percent attend colleges emphasizing a vocational content (either technically or commercially oriented).


Gymnasium & Hojere Forberedelseseksamen (HF): The Danish gymnasium and HF (Higher Preparatory Examination) are two forms of academically oriented upper secondary education and are attended by as many as 53 percent of all school-leavers. These programs contain a general education in its own right that also prepares students for higher education. Denmark has approximately 295 gymnasiums and HFs, of which 85 percent are publicly owned; the State covers the cost of these. The remaining 15 percent are private institutions; the State subsidizes 80 to 85 percent of the costs of these.

The gymnasium is the most traditional type of upper secondary school; it consists of a three-year course directed to students who have recently completed nine years of compulsory education. The HF was introduced in 1967 and is parallel to the gymnasium, but directed at those who have left the education system and wish to return to study. HF can be taken as a two-year full-time course or a single subject at a time.

Full-time students at the gymnasium or HF receive instruction in approximately 13 subjects. The courses contain a core of compulsory subjects such as Danish, English, mathematics, basic science, and history; students are further required to choose a number of electives from a wide range of subjects such as music, art, philosophy, and social studies. Students must also complete a major written assignment in their final year of study.

The gymnasium is completed with the studentereksamen (upper secondary school leaving examination) comprising 10 parts, three written and seven oral. Students are also assessed continuously in terms of their oral and written performance in classes. The HF is completed with the HF eksamen (higher preparatory examination). In contrast to the gymnasium, no marks are given for oral and written performance during the year; instead, students are required to take examinations in every subject studied. Marks are given on a scale from zero to 13, and students must have an average of six to pass their upper secondary education. The national examination system is administered by the Ministry of Education.


Hojere Handels Eksamen (HHX) & Hojere Tekniske Eksamen (HTX): The HHX (higher commercial examination) and HTX (higher technical examination) comprise a vocationally oriented upper secondary education, which qualifies students for admission to higher education as well as for employment in trade and industry, usually in training positions. The two programs take three years each and are offered at most business and technical colleges. Admission requires completion of nine years of compulsory education.

The HHX and HTX consist of a core of compulsory subjects such as Danish, English and a second foreign language, as well as subjects specifically related to either commerce (e.g., business studies, economics, and sales) or technology (e.g., technology studies, vocational studies, and natural sciences). Students are further required to choose five or six electives from subjects relevant to their course. In their final year, all students must complete a major written assignment.

Some commercial colleges also offer the hojere handelseksamen, or HH (higher commercial examination), which comprises a one-year course available to students who have completed an upper secondary school leaving examination. The HH consists of compulsory subjects and electives.

Examinations: Students at the HHX, HTX, and HH are required to take examinations in all subjects studied; students are also assessed continuously in terms of oral and written performance in classes. Marks are awarded on a scale of zero to 13, and students must obtain an average of six to pass their upper secondary education. The Ministry of Education is responsible for administering the examinations.


Teacher Qualifications & Teaching Structure: Teachers must have completed a master of arts or master of science degree, as well as an additional course in educational theory and practice to teach at the gymnasium, HF, HHX, or HTX. Unlike teaching in the folkeskole, upper secondary teaching is specialized—that is, each teacher teaches only one or two subjects.


Vocational Education & Training: An alternative direction of upper secondary education consists of vocational educations. Through the 1950s, vocational education took the form of apprenticeship in a specific craft. Through several reforms it has now become organized in the form of a number of vocational education programs, each oriented to a set of related technical, commercial, or service functions and consisting of schooling as well as practical training or apprenticeship. Since the nineteenth century, employers' branch associations and skilled workers' unions—rather than classical guilds—controlled the craft education. The intervention of the State resulted in a trilateral governing system, which remains today. The State, employers, and the trade unions share control of the quality of practical training and examinations, as well as the curriculum.

Today, vocational education offers dual programs with intermittent schooling and practical training (vekseluddannelse). Technical schools (tekniske skoler) provide a range of vocational programs based on traditional crafts, leading to recognized skilled professions. But the schools also offer training in advanced technical domains. Commercial schools, or handelsskoler, offer two-year day or evening classesleading to an examination (handelseksamen) in general subjects, languages, accounting, or retail trade. There have been no apprenticeships in agriculture, but the residential agricultural schools (landbrugsskoler) accepted students in this field without examinations for a professional education; recently this education has been included in the umbrella legislation of the traditional crafts' education. Banks and some public services have their own basic training programs. There is a tendency towards merging these particular programs with those provided and regulated by the State.

It appears that an increasing number of companies employ young people with no specific vocational skills or experience and train them. Meanwhile, the general level of vocational education is increasing. The commercial and technical schools also provide a general upper secondary education intended to be equivalent to the gymnasium as a path to higher education, but it puts less emphasis on classical education, arts, and sports, and more on vocationally relevant skills. Obviously these provisions of erhvervsgymnasiale programs (vocational education and training) attract different groups of young people with somewhat different class backgrounds and motivations, and they probably counteract a general trend of students moving into the gymnasium and academic higher education.


Additional topics

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceDenmark - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Primary Preprimary Education, Secondary Education